Metal Music Reviews from renkls

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 4 ratings
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renkls
When a group of artists intrinsically tie a personal tragedy to the creation of their art, it becomes an inseparable aspect within it. Such has clearly been imbued in the creation of Bell Witch's massive, emotionally crushing third full length outing, Mirror Reaper. Envisioned as one continuous, 83-minute composition, spanning two disks on CD, 2 double sided LPs or seamlessly in digital format, Bell Witch have created a monumental, sombre eulogy to their ex-drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra.

Glacial in pace, yet extreme in scope, Bell Witch craft introspective bass lines which ring out with the sense of grief. Traversing the length and breadth of what's on offer, the composition offers peaks and valleys, near silent moments ringing with the subtle, yet unmistakable musings of an organ - to massive soundscapes of crushing emotional weight.

It is hard to overstate the diversity of the primarily two-man drum and bass guitar band, forcing out your feelings with every twist and turn on offer. The subtle insertion of the late Adrian Guerra's vocals impresses even heavier the weight of emotion Mirror Reaper works with. Even in the lengthy minimalist passages late in the composition, the band gracefully and gradually lead us through highly emotive territory, with near perfect segues into organ passages, before driving forward to a cyclic, cathartic close.

Few albums can respectfully represent an emotion with as much legitimate weight and personal circumstance so seamlessly woven in. While its surface length and ponderous nature warns off casual listeners, the passage through grief is not something that comes fast, and as a eulogy to Guerra and a gigantic slab of emotional ritual, you would be hard pressed to find a representation of grief as primal, cathartic and yes, as beautiful as Mirror Reaper.

KROKMITËN Omicron-Omega

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Krokmiten is a band with a twenty year past, but an enormous fifteen year hiatus between their initial demos and what was to be their debut album Alpha-Beta. Released as one 46 minute track (as a free download no less) That album, released in 2011 fit best under the category of experimental death metal, and their followup, Omicron-Omega continues in much the same vein.

The bands creator and frontman Simlev describes the album as relating chaos on interplanetary levels, and the gruff vocal style he employs throughout the continuous fifty minute track compounds a sense of urgency. The music itself throws us straight into the heaviness, and you best get used to that intensity and pace, because about 90 percent of the track is in this fast, aggressive style, with only minute pauses for swirling atmospherics.

This fits with my expectations of the band, but the consistency of the style, having not being broken up by a greater weight of dynamics, soft, loud and middle ground, makes the album pummel into, and I dislike saying it, boredom or predictability. The solos within the mix don't stand out as much as Alpha-beta, namely because of the consistency of the bands approach. The middle ground builds up to heaviness, such as around the 23 or 42 minute mark make a welcome change as the band escalates tension rather then burning us out with white-knuckling the entire track. In a sense this is more of a regression from the more defined builds in tension Krokmiten displayed in Alpha-beta.

That certainly isn't to say this isn't still a reasonably talented band behind what we're hearing through the speakers. I was certainly impressed with their debut more then here because it feels a bit too familiar, not as experimental as the debut was, and covering less new ground. With a stronger production value, perhaps more impact on the drums and dynamic range, this band can soar to a masterful level; as it stands now, it feels like they are content to thrash about in their own defined stomping ground without exploring new territory, and perhaps potentially bringing their music to new heights.

In closing, if you have heard Alpha-Beta, you can expect much of the same intensity throughout its heavier moments, with less emphasis on the more subtle dynamics. While I can appreciate the decision to be consistently heavy and in our face, the music proves draining and underwhelming in its consistency. However we are still dealing with a talented band who is yet to carve their masterpiece; and seeing as they keep a close communication with their fans, and their music is free - it's still a worthwhile release, if only as a prelude to potentially greater heights.

Free to download at http://www.krokmiten.com/

FISTER IV

Album · 2015 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
This is DOOM. Skull pounding, city block crushing heaviness, basically from the moment this 44 minute track begins to the moment it closes. Within the simplistic, yet catchy riffage lies a decent amount of melody and variety, giving the gargantuan track some well rounded dynamics, making this anything but an un-listenable dirge. There's even a disquieting moment of quietude nearly 30 minutes in that mixes things up a little further.

Fister's punishing, yet focused style make this highly recommended for fans of the blacker doom side of things - ala Corrupted or Moss, though theirs is a more varied style, sometimes dipping into death metal chugs alongside plodding, pulverizing guitars. Fresh from the band, this is free to stream on bandcamp, and well worth a listen if you've got 44 minutes to spare.

They save the best aggression for last.

http://fister.bandcamp.com/album/iv

MONOLITHE Monolithe IV

Album · 2013 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Monolithe are a strange entity in the doom genre. From their very first album, suitably titled Monolithe I, they took a unique twist on the genre, uplifting and often 'beautiful' doom passages, which seems almost contradictory to place in the same sentence. This juxtaposition worked wonders however in presenting the birth of the universe.

Monolithe II was the album that most closely represents 'conventional' funeral doom, insofar as it was removed from the more uplifting aspects of the debut; a far colder and more alien environment. I feel this album is far more attuned to the coldness of space; planets crashing into each other, indifferent to the destruction of the potential inhabitants on board.

Monolithe III was another beast entirely, a far more progressively inclined composition; the riff salad of the first ten minutes is testament to that. This album feels far more like the human struggle with conceiving their surroundings, as well as the nature of the ever present 'Monolith'. Of course, this is just speculation on my behalf.

What then, is Monolithe IV? It represents the end of the Monolithe narrative, and in terms of what it sounds like, granted you are familiar with the trilogy beforehand, is an argumentation of their previous sounds combined. The doom feeling of IV is definitely closest in spirit to Monolithe II, but it is far less cold an album; instead of the bleakness of space, and the sparseness of instrumentation, IV is rich with textures and dynamic. Block heavy from the very start, it's fifteen minutes before we even get a hint of reprieve, and even then it is short lived. The theme feels most in tune with the end of the world; the final chapter.

There are new instruments and experiments to note of course. Monolithe aren't the kind of band to stay static, and here we have even female vocals as a counterpoint to the main vocalists gutturals. The music flows like a tidal wave, less the fragmented nature of III, much more smooth and consistent a journey. That's not to say that we're missing the essentials of Monolithe, a piano solo, the progressive dabbling and drum machine are still intact.

The new developments IV brings to the table become most notable past the half hour mark, namely a middle eastern tinged segment and a few more introspective moments amongst the heavy doom. The keyboards sit further back in the mix, but often intersect with the operatic female vocals, especially in the closing passages, as we are driven towards the inevitable close of the Monolithe saga. The atmosphere conjured up in IV is definitely the most oppressive of their albums, the return of bass instrumentation that was sorely lacking in III is very welcome; adding more dynamic weight, especially noticeable through headphone listening. The progressive elements that stood out strong in III now are intrinsically mixed into the much more presistant atmosphere.

While its predecessor was a difficult deviation from the previous full lengths with a dominating progressive element far aside from conventional funeral doom, jumping from passage to passage with little time spent on some quite fantastic micro-sections (that were also never revisited), IV returns to the core sound of earlier full lengths on the most part, a more consistent, almost dirge like journey. While not completely bereft of uplifting parts; namely those offered by the addition of female vocals and slightly toned back but still present melodic counters to the overwhelming doom - this is definitely the heaviest and most, dare I say, difficult to process album.

It's a distinctive release from Monolithe, and it solidifies their individual development as a band beyond the confines of the doom genre. Monolithe is best described as sounding monolithic here, but make no mistake, it is not as if this is a more static, unchanging display - but you must look much deeper then before to uncover what makes this album their most mature and refined work yet.

Here is a link to the album streaming online. http://dmp666.bandcamp.com/album/monolithe-iv

Originally written for Rateyourmusic: http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/monolithe/monolithe_iv/

BUNKUR Nullify

Album · 2009 · Drone Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
The Quintessential Drone Doom Album.

Bunkur have done it. They’ve made the definitive final statement on how far you can push metal into extremes. Nullify represents the paradox of such a radical attempt within its uncompromising design; so extreme and relentless, even in its less nihilistic (read: almost musical) passages, that it ceases being extreme and relentless through such motivation. It lives up to its namesake; presenting a plethora of concepts and thoughts in the listener as it proceeds on its way. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to ponder these notions. Questions such as ‘Why am I listening to this?’, ‘Why was this made?’ and ‘Was it really needed?’ are all perfectly legitimate questions.

This has been, for many reviewers a release that is incredibly contentious. On one hand, there are a handful of reviews in praise of this piece, some even handing out perfect scores. On the other hand, there are those who will give it the lowest grade without hesitation. It is easy to understand why this is. What is there to like in this piece? It’s not exactly pleasant listening; to an untrained ear it is static, tedious, nigh unlistenable. I think it should be put forward (as much as this is a heavily reiterated point), it is essential to understanding all the potentials of music, outside the binaries of enjoyable and unenjoyable. Some expressions can only be conveyed through an uncompromising focus on the latter. The nature of this piece alone ensures that it will likely remain forever obscure; and through it’s even less accessible interpretation of the genre, seldom appreciated. But I have no qualms in stating this is one of my favourite musical pieces, not despite its aversive, tedious nature, but more because of it. Though this is drastically simplifying the aesthetic pleasures I find in this release.

Make no mistake about it, this is an incredibly boring piece from a musically literate standpoint, but the album more than compensates in aesthetic intent. Representing no less than the full bodied realisation of the drone doom subgenre in one massive 77 minute track; Nullify favours the drone over the doom, but both interweave to create a fascinating, yet thoroughly polarising experience. The opening sound of a train slowly wheezing to live immediately hits on a audial pulse that I haven’t experienced anywhere else; listen with good speakers and you’ll understand. Whilst the chugging of the train engine indicating a long journey ahead is a not too subtle symbol, the fractured gargling of the vocalist certainly makes it seem like you’ve taken a few wrong steps down a deep, unforgiving path to hell.

As the train leaves the station, we find the drone pulled to the foreground, fluctuating about, a few sporadic drum beats here and there; a tortured gargle from the vocalist; a chord crashes in uneasily. Rinse, wash repeat. The first chord ‘progression’ of sorts comes about thirteen minutes in, but quickly devolves again to simple sustained chords. A few obscured spoken word samples emerge here and there, as incomprehensible as the vocals. This goes on for about 70 minutes. Granted, the conventions of musicality do make an appearance about 46 minutes into the piece, the drums take up a slow rhythm and the bass lines drag out a ‘short’ passage of coherency. But that soon dies away, fading back into the persistent drone that underpins the entire length of the piece. The rumblings of the train, having completed its pilgrimage of nihilism, fades away into the distance as we’re left wondering what just happened for 77 minutes.

How then, should you approach this album? Presuming I have not already alienated potential listeners with the notion of drone doom metal played as slow as possible, treat it less as a metal epic, and more as an enormous slab of ritual. Whilst it goes nowhere and takes its sweet time doing so, it is highly compelling given the right mindset and a heavy dose of patience. Instrumentally all the elements for unease, desperation, a sense of complete fractured torment and despair are there. They are however, used in such a fashion that they transcend these emotional traits and come to embody the titular concept of the piece. One thing Bunkur do really nail is naming their albums. Whilst I would refrain from calling it background noise, it can function in both background and foreground listening. There are several intricacies, as all the best drone albums tend to have.

Nullify succeeds almost as a satire (whilst also being a completely logical extension) of doom and the extreme pretensions that too often are at play among many bands in the genre. I was never too much of a fan of their first album, Bludgeon, which in its own right seems satirical of doom (ie. What should be a six minute track stretched to sixty five), but Nullify is an inversion of its predecessor. Instead of being bombastic and crushing (sure, it’s still very long), the sonic dirge that runs through this track is, with the right mindset, akin to a dark/black ambient piece, slow, hypnotic and contrary to how the description above may imply, always evolving (albeit at the pace of a snail traversing a desert). It is in fact, the semi-musical segment of the album that is the ‘weakest’ section of the track; but is still essential in the structure. It’s almost a slap in the face really; 46 minutes of drone with barebones of musicality, then a sudden rise almost suckers us into thinking it’ll reach a pinnacle of drone doom heaviness. But the album does not function this way, however comforting the hope it would may be. This section feels like the last remnants of musicality slowly being beaten out of the song, nullified, and wiped from existence. It’s simultaneously a terrifying and fascinating idea, negating music, structure, purpose, everything that makes music and indeed life (for many of us at least) worthwhile. This is only the tip of the iceberg, readers. There are many philosophical revelations you may encounter whilst spending time with this album, and I won’t uncover them all for you.

My hope is that Bunkur realise that this release is quite literally the definitive drone doom album (hence my highest recommendation) and pursue a different path ahead in their career. Any further explorations of this genre for them would be redundant. Recommended to all adventurous music fans.

SABAZIUS The Descent of Man

Album · 2013 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
The Longest Doom Song ever?

Previously I gave that honour to a very little known entity called Potmos Hetoimos for their 132 minute track "Dance With Divinity", but this drone doom track blows that completely out of the water.

With the ominous runtime of 676 minutes, this album consists of an extremely long form, immensely slow drone intro, which veers between pleasant and aggressively noisy and back again. It also contains musical elements more close knit to doom, bass, drums, guitar and all that - just in a very prolonged way. Taking all of 100 minutes to kick into the first real 'riff' of sorts, which is really just a sustained, albeit heavy chord, the song picks up pace thereafter, moving between drone and doom rather smoothly.

At around the six hour mark, there is a heavy doom segment that runs about half an hour. It is hard to explore this album in depth because there is simply so much to take in, most of it drone, some of it quite decently played doom; these sections however feel somewhat abstract, littered amongst what must be about eight hours of droning feedback in total.

I'm a sucker for feedback, I think it's a great aversion from typical musical expression, and essential to the drone genre, which is where the majority of this enormous track lies.

Interestingly, (or disappointingly depending on your view) the track doesn't really hit a climax, rather transverses a series of movements - some have lyrics too, surprising enough for a track that spends almost two hours warming up.

Of course, this entire affair ventures deep into the whole 'compare song lengths like penis size', of which it may trump; but the real question is, if it's any good?

The concept of length and heavy drone has been explored by no shortage of bands; perhaps my favourite in testing the limits of listener patience being Netherland's Bunkur. Here however, rather then being a consistent dirge of drone, there is enough variation for perhaps the most patient of metal fans to seek out. That said, should it be an 11 hour track? I don't think there's many bands that could make a conceptual epic track that long and have a story to tell within it that didn't lose its way majorly.

There's a lot of amazing doom tracks over an hour in length (Corrupted, Rorcal, Vonn and some of this bands earlier work does come to mind), which despite their outwardly long appearance, suits perfectly to the mood/concept it is trying to convey.

This is however, a long deviation from the basis behind this recording - an experiment. Initially intended to be a 24 hour piece, this track was more an endurance test challenge posed by Earache records then treated as an actual musical odyssey. As an experiment then, it's a fascinating, if no less then nigh inaccessible experience.

I think in conclusion, this album represents an even more elongated version of this review; rambling, sometimes incoherent, unresolving and longer then it needed to be. 3 stars.

Free to listen to on YouTube in Full.

WALTARI Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! (Death Metal Symphony in Deep C)

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Waltari's obscure hour long masterpiece that is the amusingly titled "Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! Death Metal Symphony in Deep C" is one of the strangest metal albums I've heard, incorporating a huge array of genres in a spectacular mashup that, for the most part, is dizzyingly successful.

The elements shoved in this album in no specific order are; death metal, rap, techno, electronica, operatic female singers, bombastic/string driven orchestra. So a really niche, highly original album then. It's probably the only album I can recall that mixes orchestra and metal so effectively it's as if they were meant to be together.

Whilst the CD release lists eight tracks, it is merged into one hour long track; but for the ease of reviewing, I will discuss each section of the epic in detail.

1. Misty Dreariness (7:42) Opening with orchestral strings and staying that way until the seven minute mark, this intro doesn't quite prepare you for the eccentricity that lies ahead. A few sustained chords from a guitar and the swelling of the orcestra into a cresendo lead us ominiously into...

2. A Sign (8:34) Death metal. What is noticeable as the album goes on, is that although predominantly a metal album, most of the best moments come from the rapid interchange between the elements. One second the album is death metal, the next it's orchestral/techno pop. "A Sign" establishes this trend, visiting our female operatic vocalist, some clean almost pop-like vocals, and our death metal vocalist again in the space of a minute. Orchestral flourishes are beautifully used here. Some low key whispering and more guitar chords link us to...

3. Deeper Into the Mud (4:59) Here more orchestral and death metal interchanges itself frequently. What's interesting to note is that there's not a great deal of time where both elements are playing, one stops and the other enters immediately, rather then fading between, they throw you back and forth unexpectedly. The death metal is very catchy, less self serious and almost 'comical'. The operatic singer also gets some humorous vocalisations in. Some distorted screaming leads us to...

4. The Struggle for Life and Death of "Knowledge" (3:36) The most random section. Basically without discernable lyrics, the eccentricity levels go off the charts. The orchestra and death metal change places within the span of half a second, much to my amusement. It serves as a high energy closer to the first half of the album length track.

5. Completely Alone (12:10) No metal here folks. We're back to classical styled orchestra playing. Calming and like the title implies, carrying a feeling of isolation and loneliness. Goes on a bit longer then it needed to, but it's very well played nonetheless. Some electronica/ambient bubblings segue into...

6. Move (3:54) Ever heard rap backed by an orchestra? Well, this track is exactly that. Our opera vocalist is back too. The metal serves as backing to add more impact to the track. Catchy as hell.

7. Time, Irrelevant (7:58) Death metal returns, and the track grows more eccentric, more interchanges, more great mixtures of metal and classical as it leads up to another orchestral cresendo, signaling the close of...wait...

8. The Top / How Low Can U Go? (10:27) A techno pulse jars us into the final part of this journey. Classical and techno and metal. Great closing piece, 'The Top'. The lyrics here cover the whole spectrum, rap, growls and opera. And the album hits the close on a high note, all parties vocalising 'Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die!'.

...

Oh yeah. And there's an awful track after about two minutes of silence. It has nothing to do with the rest of the album and feels like a pointlessly tacked on bonus. Not only is it redundant, it's not really that good at all. The choice to bundle it with the album makes me only treat it as an bonus track. Once the brilliant symphony itself has finished, turn it off there.

Well, this album has many positives and a few negatives. On the positive side, you'll never hear so many elements and genres used in such an inventive way. This is probably the only death metal symphony out there, and it's in a league of its own in originality. Storywise, it's quite interesting too, maybe not completely unique but still entertaining, mostly in the interpretation. All adventurous music fans would do well to give this a full listen. It's difficult, lacking consistent choruses and structure, but unique for enshewing these structures all the same.

On the negative side, the bonus track is unneeded and some parts where the orchestra are the only element in play can go on a bit long. Also interestingly enough, in some parts the death metal feels like the weakest element, and whilst it's not the most dynamic and hard hitting aspect of the album, it's still got its merits, and for me is a vital part. It is a death metal symphony after all.

I give this a tenative four stars. I'm wavering between 4 and 4.5, a few more listens may see it bumped up a bit more. I recommend this to all metal fans willing to explore other genres outside of metal.

POMBAGIRA Iconoclast Dream

Album · 2011 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Doom metal is probably my favorite subgenre of metal, but sometimes it can be too excessive or monotonous for me. Albums that tread into that territory I do not look upon very fondly, although I often give them a patient listen. Pombagira’s Iconoclast Dream is one such album that I find difficult to engage with. It’s dominantly doom metal, heavy, stoner style. I think an apt description of this album would be Pombagira’s take on Dopesmoker. One 42 minute track, minimal lyrics and quite repetitive doom lines.

While it’s not a bad album, I think it requires a lot of patience, and the heavy tone of the bass can be deadening after fifteen minutes into the album. Luckily, the band has the sensibility to shake things up in the second half, evolving the album into a post-rocky stoner jam, which for me was probably the best part. The album concludes with a long outro, segueing to a spoken word poem which is quite a fascinating ending. The overall atmosphere is murky and all-consuming. For an avid doom fan, you can’t go too wrong with this, but even then, it’s a long slog of a trip.

MONOLITHE Monolithe III

Album · 2012 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 3 ratings
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renkls
There are albums that are difficult to review because of how you’ve been metered to expect them to be, compared to how they actually come out being. Monolithe’s third full length, fittingly titled “Monolithe III” concludes a trilogy of albums (each containing one fifty+ minute track) dealing with the birth of the universe. It’s been a long wait for this third installment to come down the line, but now that it’s here, I can honestly say this wasn’t what I was expecting. Monolithe’s previous albums, stand out as a form of uplifting funeral doom, slow and heavy, but enlightening and in a strange ethereal way, comforting. The second album contained a bit less diversity and more abrasiveness, making it a bit harder to digest, but still was an effective continuation of the Monolithe tale.

This third entry takes a surprisingly different route, but at its core retains the Monolithe sound. Rather then being dominantly funeral doom, there is a distinct focus on progressive metal tendencies, frequent riff changes, and a refusal to remain static. Whilst I’d not accuse the previous albums of being static, they functioned through the emphasis on repeated segments to achieve greater effect when revisited. Here the tendency is to progress through many stages, rather then dwell for more then a minute on any section.

It’s a surprising change of pace for Monolithe, but I for one, don’t find it too jarring. The problem does arise that some sections are not as inspired as others.

The speed of the music in the 52 minute track that makes up this album ensures that time flies past when listening, however what does strike me, even after the first listen, is that the transitions and segues between sections can come abruptly and the parts themselves do not add up to a completely seamless whole. This isn’t too problematic most of the time, but with the huge amount of sections on display, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and feeling a bit lost in the spiraling and constantly evolving epic.

The lyrics are relatively sparse, even by Monolithe standards, but they are powerful and effective growls and rumbles, fitting in well, even with the progressive edge given to the music. While I don’t feel this is up to the same powerful level as the first album, it’s certainly an audacious and powerful offering despite flaws with transition and the likelihood of alienating the listener if they have a short attention span. A 52 minute song demands an attentive listen. I think four stars will suffice for this release.

While some fans of Monolithe’s previous albums may not like the more progressive and sometimes abstract nature of the music, for me it hasn’t proved too detrimental.

GRAVETEMPLE The Holy Down

Live album · 2007 · Drone Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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While I’m yet to check out most of Sunn O)))’s expansive discography, I have come across the Gravetemple side project, namely through looking at the track listings for the albums. The debut full length/live album ‘The Holy Down’, certainly qualifies as a challenging piece for a metal fan, given that it takes all of forty minimalistic minutes to fully start to show its teeth. Even in the subgenre of Drone Doom metal, that’s pretty damn slow. Featuring an hour long track, this album was recorded in a war zone, and for that alone, holds an interesting backstory most albums should rightfully envy.

Beginning with the slow, errie pluckings of guitar strings, and slowly evolving into an electronically dominant middle section, the album picks up after the half way mark, forming a chaotic spiral into expressive sonic madness. The vocalist presents a very disturbing verbal musing, filled with strange vocalizations, gibbers and screams. Experiencing this live would have been amazing. Most of the effect of what that live experience must have been like has been well transposed to this album; which sounds to be two shows transitioned into one.

Uncommon for drone doom as well, this album features a blisteringly fast drum segment towards the end, marking a powerful climax to an unsettling album. For those new to drone doom or wanting to get into it more, this album gives a very interesting take, with dominant electronic influences and experimentation. Worth a dedicated and focused listen.

ZENI GEVA Maximum Money Monster

Album · 1990 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Like a proto-sludge metal bludgeon to the face, this Japanese band serves up an album that is suitably fierce and fiery, blending an unclassifiable mix of sludge and noise rock heaviness together as one. My version of the CD, and the one originally released, presses all eight songs on the album as one, 46 minute track.

First off, the negatives. The first track, Slam King is overlong, and quite repetitive. Unlike the following, shorter segments, this runs an interminable 16 minutes of what sounds like the same looping rhythm. While it's quite good for a few minutes, it can leave you deadened before the real good stuff arrives.

This album improves as each section goes past, getting more heavy and powerful with each passing moment. The closer, 'On Suicide' is a great finale. This is an interesting insight into early sludge music, heavily influenced by Swans, and I'd gather, quite influential itself.

4 stars for now, may improve with more listens.

RORCAL Heliogabalus

Album · 2010 · Drone Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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A sonic dirge of mammoth proportions.

Doom metal is part of my staple diets these days, and being attracted to a genre that is renowned for some of the most aggressive, powerful and visceral music around, it's good to see my expectations fulfilled with Rorcal's Heliogabalus; a concept album of one 70 minute track, chronicling the infamous emperors four year reign of excess.

Opening deceptively soft with a minute of ticking on the edge of a drum cymbal, out of nowhere a massive riff hurtles us into the opening passage, and indicates the nature of the journey you're about to go on. A minute later, the first vocals appear, best described as protracted gurgling screams and rasping howls of anger. Get used to them, they're the dominant vocal style throughout the composition. They fit the concept well and for someone who is not accustomed to doom, they're quite shocking.

About the lyrics; they're incomprehensible due to the vocal treatment - but in the context of the album, it seems fitting. The band has made the statement in an interview that it is more about the feeling then the words themselves, and fitting to that idea, Heliogabalus is one angry, cathartic beast.

It's not seventy straight minutes of a dirge, ala Corrupted (Paso Inferior), but it takes dips and turns throughout, most prominently a five minute drum and keyboard interlude and 10 minute piano and organ segue in the center of the piece. However, it's never less then dynamic enough to maintain your full interest. While the opening eight minutes may seem at first to be a repeating riff, there is enough experimentation and slight alterations to the riff to give a full bodied covering to the track. This is greatly assisted by the fact the band played all the instruments live.

The album shows some influence from post-metal bands like Dirge and nails exactly what I think modern doom should shoot for, bleak, angry and powerful - but never less then fully engaging. For a seventy minute track to keep your full attention all the way through is a massive achievement, and in doom, certainly an even greater challenge in the nature of the music it presents.

Rorcal has pulled this release off incredibly, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any and all doom fans - and seeing as it's free for download (!), I advise you go over to their website and check this monolith of sludgy doom out.



DARKESTRAH Epos

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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A composition that flows smooth as magma, and in some ways, just as excessively, being at least five minutes longer then it needed to be.

The 33:33 minute epic track, Epos is the only song to grace this album; and before you go thinking it's a wall to wall slab of 33 minute brilliance, I'll burst your bubble and say that's not entirely the case. It is however, a very good epic track nonetheless.

When you put on this album, the first thing you will hear is the sound of crashing waves. Sets the mood, all good. Two and a half minutes of these waves pass and the first section of the track eases in from under the waves; a good transition. It builds in intensity until the sixth minute, upon which it hits the first vocals, punctuated by a female vocalists roar. Epic, and powerful, it lurches through multiple verses, a repetitive rhythm and the addition of melancholy violin strings into the mix.

At the twelve minute mark, it all fades away, to the sounds of stormy turbulence far off in the distance. After a minute of this, a jew harp (never heard one of them before hearing this song) comes into the mix, then after a few beats, a chorus of 'hey' with drums, hand claps and jew harp signals the second section. That makes it sound ineffectual, but it comes in naturally and feels perfect for the composition at the time. After a few minutes of this, we settle into a new rhythm, aggressive and perfectly fitting - pagan influences are present underneath the all consuming atmosphere. This is music you have to hear up loud.

Again, after a while the music fades back down again, to a light acoustic segue which lasts all of thirty seconds before the female vocalist rips apart another cry and the third section begins, pulsing ahead to a powerful finish. The music swells passionately to the conclusion, reprising the opening rhythm as our female vocalist muses a melodic exit, and we are left to the sound of crashing waves once more.

While I love the composition itself, the choice to sandwich it between more than seven minutes of just wave sounds was a bit of a poor choice, as well as the decision to classify this as full length, when it's quite a measly offering. But with music this passionate and effective, it's a pretty minor complaint. Though it feels like three songs sandwiched together for show, it has a coherency to it that many other long tracks would envy, and I think it paid off. Just cut down a little on the repetition in each section and most of the waves, and you've got a real EP length gem.

GREEN CARNATION Light of Day, Day of Darkness

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 29 ratings
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renkls
Not the greatest single song/track album ever made, but close enough to warrant a lot of consideration for those with broadening prog tastes and enough time on their hands to listen to an hour long piece of progressive metal of a pretty refined kind.

First things first, this would be a brilliant 50 minute song. Such as it is, there's quite a bit of gristle that could be shaved off some segments, and nothing of huge value would be lost. The style of music this album contains bridges progressive metal, doom metal and prog rock. It's a very busy album, with apparently over 600 instruments used in the recording process, a children's choir even. The lyrics are melancholy and somewhat dry throughout, though touchingly ambiguous and still interesting.

Green Carnation made an interesting album with Light of Day, and considering their doom metal roots on their first full length, took an adventurous path with it. Since this album they've gone onto full acoustic records also, so they've got no shortage of dexterity.

Overall, it's not quite a masterpiece, but it is a suitably bombastic and epic offering, and well worth checking out for any adventurous metal fan with an hour of time to spare.

GEORGE BELLAS Step Into The Future

Album · 2009 · Metal Related
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
I've got no problem with instrumentals, generally speaking, if it's engaging enough without the use of vocals, then it doesn't need to have them at all. Sometimes however, instrumentals that show off guitar virtuosity and talent alone is just not enough to keep you engaged.

Such is the case with the dubiously metal, Step Into the Future. At a superficial glance, that cover isn't very engaging. Also, instead of a bunch of divided tracks as a concept, we have one 75:22 long progressive metal epic. At least, that's what we'd hope for. And I was hoping this album would be able to keep me entertained and maintain a strong consistency. I was disappointed then, when I found that instead of the heavier metal edge, we have a more prog rock vibe. Now this is fine on its own, but the lack of multiple tracks means that most subsegments of this huge composition go on longer then they need to, however dynamic the performance, my attention wanders.

I'm a big fan of extended, long form pieces of music, as evidenced by 95% of my reviews on this site. Instrumental albums done in this fashion are exceptionally difficult to pull off, and here, where the general mood of the piece is lighter and less hard edged, it's an even more niche avenue to excel in. Not that I don't admire George Bellas for trying something so audacious. It is good to see musicians working outside traditional song structures.

For a prog rock fan, I think this album will hold much more appeal then it did for me. The fact it's instrumental is quite detrimental to me, I don't think that the concept (whatever it is) really needed to be 75 minutes long. But hey, it's his music and I'm sure some people will gravitate towards the style he goes for here. He's a talented musician, but instrumentals tread a fine line between brilliance and being prime examples of diminishing returns. It's not an album I think I'll bother engaging with again soon. Interesting release though and I'm sure for some, this will be quite a trip.

2.5 at the moment.

FISTULA (OH) Inverted Black Star

Album · 2008 · Drone Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Unlike the companion piece to this album, Lessons in Lamentation, this is not quite an unendurable. A still needlessly overlong piece of work, heavily influenced by noise and electronic effects. It feels like a noisy drone piece over most of its length, a few unsubtle peaks and valleys throughout. It doesn't really show the bands teeth much, and feels like an ambitious, but basically failed experiment.

Those high pitched noise tones can easily grate your nerves, no doubt about it. It's aggressive in that sense, but not in the sense that metal fans generally like - minimalist, sludge/noise mashups are not my thing either. Still, quite fascinating to hear once, and far better then the far less listenable Lessons in Lamentation.

FISTULA (OH) Lessons In Lamentation

Album · 2008 · Drone Metal
Cover art 1.50 | 2 ratings
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renkls
So this is what experimental metal sounds like... At least, it's what Fistula think it does. Like Inverted Black Star, an anomaly in their discography, an hour long dirge of electronic laced sludge chaos, repetitive, and pretty pointless. It doesn't offer enough sonic potential to ever be something I'd revisit.

I came across this only because of the huge length, and that it was pretty obscure, so I thought why not? My patience was worn thin pretty fast and I struggled to get through it. The problem is definitely developmental. As an anomaly in their discography, it's interesting to see a band take a radically different direction in their music, like Pig Destroyer did with Natasha (who expects a 36 minute doom metal song from a grindcore band?), but here the experimentation is underwhelming, and feels completely needless. Sure, some parts are okay, but in the most part, it's just a pointless listen. Not worth a revisit anytime soon, although I will just to confirm if it's as bad as I remember it to be.

ABRUPTUM Vi Sonus Veris Nigrae Malitiaes

Album · 1996 · Black Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Pushing the boundaries even further with Vi Sonus... then I imagine many people expected, following their second full length, Abruptum prove that third time is not always the charm.

This isn't a charming release, a big step down (even in production quality) from their second full length, but like it, a single track mammoth over an hour long. Rather then a two person band, we're dealing only with the work of It, dedicating the release to Evil, who could not participate in the recording. A fitting absence based on his name, because here the effort rarely sparks up much in malice or evil thoughts.

What is the music like? Well, it's the same old Abruptum, noisy, disjointed, abrasive and low-low fi. The album begins quite strongly, though the production quality will hit you with its poorness right away, building with a two minute intro...which would be great if the rest of the album wasn't the same old formula of an album length intro.

It never really travels anywhere, doesn't do much to initate or keep interest beyond the start, although there are some unexpected screams that burst you out of your thoughts as soon as you start to drift. If you enjoyed Abruptums previous work, this is a slightly disappointing release in that there's nothing new - but to them I can recommend it knowing that for some, sticking to a tried and previously successful method will keep at least a few fans.

For me, it's a 2.5. For others, probably less or more, depending on your tolerance for black metal improvisation stretched to an incredibly excessive length.

LIKE DRONE RAZORS THROUGH FLESH SPHERE D.R.O.N.E.R.E.X.I.A

Album · 2007 · Drone Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
An extremely rare and obscure release by a just as obscure and unknown drone doom metal band, D.R.O.N.E.R.E.X.I.A., should you ever find a legitimate copy, is something that you should buy without hesitation. Released in an incredibly scant 60 copies, each copy is unique in design and construction.

I'll front up and say Youtube is how I found the album in question, as a physical copy has danced out of my reach for a long time. The album plays as one continuous drone doom experience, with drone definitely being the dominant genre in play. A single track of 68:26, this is incredibly difficult to digest, for all but the most seasoned of drone fans, however there is a lot of melodic ideas and metal based undertones present throughout the album; drum rolls and the occasional light ruminations of a choir make their presence heard beneath the persistently oppressive drone, building agonizingly slowly.

It's a challenge to take in unless you are truly engaged. This is late night insomnia inducing drone, ominous and brooding. It definitely has a metal vibe running through it, similar to Black Boned Angels album length exercises in minimalist metal; but here it is punishing in its calculated precision, little melodic vibes that run underneath are introduced, disappear and reappear. It's all quite enthralling, like good drone should be, but as with most drone based music, very difficult for the uninitiated. Well worth a purchase (if you are one of those lucky enough to find a copy)

BLACK HOWLING This Rain Is the Weeping of Forefathers

Album · 2012 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
If you are familiar with Black Howling, you can basically expect more of the same from this album, a 35 minute undivided track of black metal, messy, noisy, mostly abrasive, but also melodic. Unlike their debut full length, this release feels more structured and thought out, unlike the debut which was fully improvised. The messy and dissonant atmosphere the album weaves throughout is underpinned by a much needed melodic counterpart, which ensures that despite the general abrasiveness of the album, it's not uninvolving. Melodic breaks appear every five minutes or so and add some relief to the black metal dissonance that is thrown at you. A piano (I think) even appears around the 21 minute mark.

Additionally, this time, the lone track has english lyrics, sometimes easy to discern (though mostly not so much), which are quite fascinating to align to the bands philosophy: "This is not the same cold rain that fell here long ago. What used to flow freely and naturally is now chained." Not too poetic, but it gets across exactly what they want to say.

This album comes across less as a DSBM effort, and is much more directly linked to nature and the concern for the lost ways of nature through human hands. I personally find the theme fascinating, having explored it myself through philosophical leanings. Here, Black Howling lends an angry, concerned outlook for the future of the world, having forgotten the ways of nature and gods. That's an interesting paradigm to put across as well, as Black Metal tends to avert from treating gods with any great deal of respect.

But Black Howling is certainly a pretty out there and unconventional band from Portugal, having become rather prolific in their discography. This is niche stuff, but for a select few, well worth investigating. I don't believe they've yet made their opus, but I'll be hanging around for it.

NADJA Thaumogenesis

Album · 2007 · Drone Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Thaumogenesis is a sonic journey well worth taking for any adventurous doom fan. It should be noted that this album is one 61 minute track, fully instrumental, and in many ways represents shoegraze and ambient a lot more dominantly then 'doom'. The bulk of the song is made up of heavy bass driven riffs, rounded with a dominant underpinning of drone. It's an unconventional, but quite beautiful release.

Beginning softly with a pastoral, dreary five minutes of guitar nestled amongst some ambient undertones, the song suddenly bursts to life, the drums kick in and we begin the most comforting doom journey I think I've ever had. It's quite a relaxing listen despite its doom metal moniker, maybe not fully upbeat, but introspective; thoughtful. You may not agree, but it's melacholy nature certainly helps me to write and feel a brief peacefulness.

For that alone I can't give it any less then four stars.

ABRUPTUM In Umbra Malitiae Ambulabo, in Aeternum in Triumpho Tenebrarum

Album · 1994 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Abruptum had already made a name for themselves in the early 1990s with their debut, as a melding of dark ambience, noise and black metal. 'Obscuritatem advoco amplectère me' was a 50 minute suite of utter chaos split into two halves, whereas their second album 'In umbra malitiae ambulabo, in aeternum in triumpho tenebraum' follows the same formula, except it's a single undivided 60 minute track. Flowing as an improvised piece of sound chaos, the album is challenging, anti-conventional and pretty structureless. For what it is though, it's one of the best instances of improvisational black metal around.

Pulling it apart, there seems to be a sense of cohesion to it, despite it sounding mostly improvised; well timed screams over cathartic drum beats, violin screeches that accentuate the feeling of dread. If this already sounds too 'out there' or unconventional for you, it probably is. I think this sound exercise struck me most prominently as a low-fi soundtrack, but very difficult listening because of how much it strays from convention, and has long periods of time where nothing remotely constituting musical competence happens. I enjoy it, time to time, but it's definitely a difficult listen, no matter how you put it.

NJIQAHDDA II - A Yrg Alms Reinterpretation

Album · 2010 · Metal Related
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Now this is an obscure and totally out there release, even for black metal. I'd say the dominant genre here is either blackgaze or noise, as this is just laced in feedback and noisiness. The album itself is one 71 minute track, where the feedback covers over ambient and black metal textures that lurch in and out as if a continuous composition, which this album is presented as.

In one way this is a difficult, beautiful piece of work, speaking on a very different level away from social or political message mongering. It is in a world of its own, and I can't say I've heard anything quite like it. Granted, this is the first album I've heard of Njiqahdda, and I may check out their other works yet. This isn't their most praised effort, and I can understand why. Unless you are well aquainted with noise, this release will really get on your nerves. That and the fact it's pretty hard to tell one moment from the next throughout the composition if you just sit down and flick through it. It takes 71 minutes of melodic black metal mixed with rather harsh feedback to develop itself full circle.

Too long? For me, definitely. It's avant-garde madness, I didn't sense any real logical flow throughout the piece, just a longform blackgaze/noise composition with subtle but noticable beauty to it. I am split on this release because I know its audience is already incredibly small, even in the black metal/noise fanbase - but I like it enough to say it's worth a fan of Njiqahdda's time, as well as a really adventurous black metal/noise sadist.

VERWÜSTUNG Beyond the Watercolor Sunset, We Feel New Life

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
28 minutes is a pretty short full-length release, but Verwustung insists that this album be considered as such. One-track albums have always fascinated me, and this one was certainly an interesting find. Free to download on their bandcamp, Verwustung melds ambience with shoegraze-like black metal. This album is mostly instrumental, aside from incomprehensible murmurs over the black metal parts as well as an opening dialogue between a mother and daughter taken from a film (not sure of which one).

The opening is very pink-floydian in its ambient build, and is really a highlight moment. Unfortunately the album despite its short length as a single track feels overlong. It doesn't always captivate the audience with the black metal in hypnotic loops of majestic beauty because it pushes the length a bit too far to be consistently engaging. An accoustic interlude is quite decent, but again, goes on for too long.

There's a lot of good in this track, aside from the slight excess it throws around. But hey, like most good music out there, it's free to download and listen to, so go right ahead and check it out, if you like the shoegrazy style in the metal genre, this may well be a great release for you.

http://vrwstng.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-watercolor-sunset-we-feel-new-life

DACAST Dédale

Album · 2012 · Mathcore
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Mad mathcore. Released digitally for free, as well as on vinyl, eccentric French band Dacast certainly created a difficult album in Dedale, a long form mathcore/metalcore piece, 35 minutes of jazz inspired madness that reminds me of some of Naked City's works, especially with the uses of brief silences and outbursts of madness that seem to come from nowhere.

I'd be lying if I said I understood much of the meaning behind the album itself, but if I had to guess, I'd say that probably isn't important. It's an album that sweeps you up in the eccentricity and holds you tight until it has completely run its course. What makes it difficult is that it keeps you on edge throughout, jumping around with such frenetic energy that it is undeniably an exhausting listen, especially if heard in one sitting.

Of course, that is a key aspect of metalcore, with an uncompromising power and ruthlessness to the music, precise and potentially deadly. Dedale is not a masterpiece, not to me anyway; but it is an experience. And seeing as it's free to listen to on Dacast's bandcamp, check it out. Metalcore fans may find something well worth cherishing here.

PUSSYGUTT She Hid Behind Her Veil...

Album · 2008 · Drone Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Drone doom metal is one of my favorite subgenres when done 'right', which is actually quite difficult given the apparent simplicity of the music at hand. Minimalism can quite easily equal boredom if the droning aspect of the genre is overplayed, and many albums I've encountered in the genre do overstep the boundaries. Pussygutt's full length debut, She Hid Behind Her Veil... is a 46 minute instrumental, a sonic dirge that embraces the drone side of doom to comparatively great effect. The album takes its sweet time warming up itself with a series of bass rumbles signalling its agonisingly slow coming into life; reminding me of Black Boned Angel's album length exercises in drone doom minimalism, but here the effect is somewhat less alienating.

The centerpiece of the album enters at the twenty minute mark, a sole violin that aches along with the proceeding drone; this aspect makes the album stand out from countless other drone albums I've heard, the gothic, classical influence gives it a truly errie vibe, like a long form performance piece to an audience of ghosts.

The final ten minutes sees the album return to its minimalist beginnings, a sustained low bass rumble that slowly sees the album to an anticlimatic close. Though it's company with many drone doom albums that outstay their welcome, the classically inspired middle of this album certainly gives me enough to recommend it to an adventurous doom fan, or anyone who is aware and receptive of drone doom metal.

BLACK HOWLING Alma... uma Floresta de Dor

Album · 2007 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
There are some albums that really require an open mind and patience when they ask you to sit down and take it all in one sitting. Black Howling's full length debut Alma...uma Floresta de Dor is one such album, and probably for my sake, one I find very difficult to digest in this way.

Playing an improvised style of DSBM (depressive/suicidal black metal), Black Howling achieve their intended effect through use of reverb and feedbacky guitar lines, tosses together with some of the most low-fi production to have ever graced my ear canals. The album itself is one 42 minute track. I read reviews before venturing into this album, that the production is really love it or hate it, because it's really minimal. It could have been recorded in a tin can for all I know. Distorted clips of guitar and drum sound jump in and out as the production reduces the album mostly to a dissonant dark ambient/black metal drone. The vocals however, as howls are effective and well captured.

While an initial listen prompted me to believe the production was the final nail in the coffin, I agree with some reviewers when they say that the production produces an awkward, personal feeling to the work; a piece of authenticity that the album could not achieve without this minimalist production effort. It's not that the music itself is poor at all. The production smoothers the melodic beauty of the piece, which is a mostly instrumental, guitar, bass and drums exercise. At moments the melody lines seep through the feedbacky and dissonant atmosphere, making me feel like the album is examining the beauty of a life struggling to be heard beneath cruelty, depression and/or sadness.

It's a difficult album/song at any time, but if you are a fan of DSBM, this may just be your new favorite album in waiting. For me, once now and then is more then enough.

ICTUS Imperivm

Album · 2007 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 3.56 | 4 ratings
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renkls
A Spanish album I've long considered a personal favorite of mine, and though I don't feel it fits completely in the genre in which it is placed on this site as of yet, I feel obligied to review it regardless. You should not go into this album expecting a pure metalcore assualt for 39 minutes straight. I'd personally view this album as melodic death/heavy metal, with crust punk and hardcore influences up to its ears. Normally this kind of subgenre would not incite a great deal of enthusiasm for me, but this album is a whole different can of worms. This is one 39 minute epic, a suite of massive proportions, and to me, probably the best album of 2007.

I came across this, like 90% of my music through obscure means. Someone mentions a one track album of hardcore crust punk and my ears prick up. My expectations are moderate, I try and maintain a level head. It sounds right up my alley, as some tag it as melodic death metal; so I'm thinking ala Edge of Sanity's seminal Crimson. It's got high praise on other review sites as well, so I'm looking forward to it.

It didn't blow me away the first time I heard it. It definitely has melodic death metal tinges, melodic interludes and a suite like structure. However, I persisted. It stands as a high point above most of, if not all of its respective genre residents, powerful, direct and consistently entertaining. There's no moment that seems out of place or abruptly jarring, its flow is as smooth as they come. The real highlight is the brilliant drum performance throughout, aggressive where it needs to be, suitably melacholy at others, especially melodic breaks.

This is a deeply political album, focused unwaveringly on American political griveances; the scars of which may never stop being felt in countries torn apart by wars or poverty. The band is pointedly direct in their accusations: "It's the world against you."

I embrace the melding of music and political perspective. Art should seep into all aspects of life, and we should be reminded of the cruelties of the world, humans and ourselves through it. I suppose it is a guility pleasure in itself, an album that drives home the point indeliably, but cannot resolve the problems. The thoughts of just how flawed our world truly is rubs off on me with this album. It doesn't soften the blow once it has run its course, but it makes me feel that little more able to deal with the harsh realities. Problems may never be solved. We may never reach a lasting peace. I certainly don't believe this will be the case, and Ictus certainly don't believe so either.

Imperivm represents their ambitious apex of creativity, coming off their similarly melodic EP, Hambrientos De Un Sol Distinto. Aside from its ambitious layout, the album is never wavering in its political drive and consequent brilliance. Every second feels needed, the brief melodic respites from the hardcore onslaught feels welcome every time I hear it, but I, like Ictus, know that this peace cannot last.

One of the few albums I feel is worthy of the big 5.0 stars.

DEVIL DOLL Sacrilegium

Album · 1992 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 5 ratings
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renkls
Here's a album that really disappointed me. I say disappointed because perhaps my favorite album ever (or at least top 10) is The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms, a 'remix'/extended version of this album, Sacrilegium. This is one case where the 'directors cut' completely lays the original to shame.

Now what kind of music does Devil Doll play? A look at the tracklist says this is one 58 minute epic, which is not the case, however it's certainly epic in a different sense. Devil Doll plays pretty hard rock/bombast prog throughout their discography, and on this album is fitted with instruments as broad as choirs and pianos. As with all Devil Doll releases, the metal influence is slight.

This album was intended to be a grand statement by the band, and as The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms proved, all the elements for a masterpiece were there - but were scattered abysmally. The album design as a single track is so scattershot, parts segue and jump so unexpectedly and randomly there's no way you could ever pick up what the hell the album is about without studying the lyrics carefully, and relistening many, many times, both of which I've done.

To simplify the album to explain further, there seems to be two interlinked narrative themes throughout the album, both interweaved in this CD in a very haphazard way. The music itself lacks any real build or flow because each part seems individual to itself, not part of some grander picture. If Mr. Doctor had not retrospectively remixed this into the true masterpiece it originally could have been, I'd write this off as a very poor release. Such as it is however, I can understand its importance in relation to one of my favorite albums, but still...

I seldom play this album anymore because it simply pales in comparison to its far superior remake/remix. For all who read this, I suggest that you give this a listen along with The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms and decide which works best for you.

POTMOS HETOIMOS Dance With Divinity

Album · 2007 · Doom Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Longest doom song ever?

Well, it's the longest I've heard with a narrative and lyrics. A 133 minute song? Yes, that's quite an achievement in itself. Does it live up to expectations however?

The first thing you will notice listening to this album is that the recording quality is quite bad. Awful really. It's a real shame that's the case, because the music itself feels like it deserves a whole lot more production quality then it gets. The album itself is doom metal through and through. It's hard for me to pinpoint any real moments that standout, and the track itself represents a pretty consistent dirge overall. At 133 minutes, it's a tough ask to listen to all the way through, but I think there's room for it to grow on me.

I can't really say much more about this in terms of the music itself. It's free and easy to find online, so if you're curious, check it out. I'll give it a few more listens and adjust my review of it accordingly. However, be prepared for poor production quality, which is the main problem with this album for my sake. 2.5 for the time being.

EA Ea

Album · 2012 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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renkls
I came across this band by accident one day, perusing long metal tracks on Youtube (because that's how I spend my time. Oh god, how depressing does that sound...), and was immediately focused on this album, their latest, one 47 minute funeral doom epic.

The band themselves is interesting in that their lyrics are based in a dead language, and they play quite a dynamic mix of funeral doom with multiple influences. Unlike the album length epics of Monolithe, this had a darker tone to it overall, beginning with a dark piano melody, that quickly gives way to the heaviness of this album. It's all very well done, perhaps not as innovative as Monolithe, but still emotionally driven and powerful in its execution.

Over the length of the album there's a few different styles touched on, we even get some black metal vocals at about the 28 minute mark, which were sort of unexpected, but work reasonably well. Pulling the album apart, there's times where it feels like it just uses a lazy segue to pull the piece together to a cohesive whole, but upon relistening, these instances don't jump out and it does feel like one 47 minute epic. Generally, the vocals are delivered with a doomy tone, aggressive and formidable which perfectly suits the music.

One negative for my sake is the drums sometimes feel stale and lifeless amidst the impressive guitar work. This was most notable for me in the black metal lyric parts where they just seemed to drag along without any standouts.

Funeral doom is a pretty difficult genre to pull off and keep entertaining and involving, but here I think Ea have done so. It's well worth finding a copy of this album if you're a fan of funeral doom and have 47 minutes to spare for an involved listen.

IMPIETY Worshippers of the Seventh Tyranny

Album · 2011 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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renkls
A recent one-track album that was a surprise for the fans of Impiety, given that they mostly stick to four to five minute thrashy black metal pieces. So a 38 minute song in their thrashy black metal style was obviously unexpected. Generally too, it was not met with a great deal of praise, and I mostly echo the same sentiments other critical reviews of this album have brought up.

There are certain factors which make a single track album venture difficult to pull off successfully. First and foremost for me is success to the point of diminishing returns. Because you cannot simply pick out the best parts and listen to them specifically, a one track album is a fully invested venture. It requires you to be switched on over its entire length. If it can pull that off, then it's a great success. However, even then, because of its typically daunting length, you'll not revisit it often. Impiety's effort here fails to succeed on the first ground due to a loss of interest on my behalf after less then 15 minutes have passed.

The album itself revolves around three or four linked themes in the music, repeating themselves multiple times over the length of the piece. Normally this is not a problem, Edge of Sanity's Crimson for instance, recycled themes to great effect and did so with an efficency that never made its length feel excessive. The same cannot be said here. This is really EP length material stretched further then it should have been, a great 20 minute track with 18 minutes of filler. Because of its one track design, and the above problem in consideration, this won't likely be a record on continuous replay.

That isn't to say that there are not highlight moments to the piece, the first five minutes kick it off to a great start, promising and hard edged. If it could keep the progression of this early stage going, rather then simply revisiting what had already been done after the first ten minutes, it would maintain interest a lot more. The final few minutes is also a good conclusion, but somehow, still feels unsatisfying due to no real drive or major progressions established from the meandering middle section.

Production wise, this album is pretty good; I will mention however that the drums are not something I view positively. It feels like they just drum a repetitive thumping all the way through with nothing to really give the record any great impact. Unfortunately, this album was not really that great for me. Sure, it had its moments but overall, something I don't visit too often. I'll be generous and give it 3 stars though. Worth checking out once if you like thrashy black metal - but for a real thrashy black metal epic, listen to Sabbat's The Dwelling instead.

X JAPAN Art Of Life

Album · 1993 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 14 ratings
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renkls
I have the feeling I've grown out of this release a bit since my younger days where I adored it greatly. Contrary to some opinions, I don't ever feel this 29 minute single track album/EP is overlong, even with that daunting 8 minute piano solo in the middle.

This was probably one of the first albums that kick started my infatuation with the epic length track, and by comparison with other epics, it's pretty short. Still, 29 minutes for most people is a very long track. The style of this album is power metal with a great emphasis on melodic elements. Though power metal is not my forte, I rather enjoyed the long form style which X Japan employed in this album. It has a cohesive, flowing nature and never feels like a bunch of unrelated songs slammed together.

The guitar playing is technical, but doesn't feel showy beyond reflecting the theme of the music, which is alienation and existential crisis; probably why the piano solo seems so fitting to the piece - it works with two pianos that form an opposition, playing off each other until the structure begins to crumble into dissonant noisy clangs. A brief respite through an ambient interlude leads us back to the power metal finale.

The band has the good sense to keep the epic flowing and always progressive, which ensures it doesn't stay static, even with the piano, it never outstays its welcome. Of course, it's a divisive album, and many would say overlong, but for me, despite somewhat growing out of it, is still a great journey that I'd recommend any power metal fan to take.

ITHDABQUTH QLIPHOTH Ithdabquth Qliphoth

Album · 2005 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
Black metal can be an incredibly diverse genre to immerse oneself in, and occasionally you can come across some incredibly well made and engaging stuff outside of the big names of the genre. Although that is not the case here, this is definitely an album worth investigating for those who have the patience to sit through a 49 minute slab of low-fi black metal. Though nominally in 7 parts, many copies (if not all) of this album when released (in 777 copies back in 2005) were pressed as one track. It flows like one, lyrically and (sort of) instrumentally.

Make no mistake, this is the more inaccessable side of black metal, where low-fi is the name of the game. The guitar sounds like a buzzsaw for the most part, and it almost progresses into drone territory through the mostly repetitive riffs that litter this albums length. Bass is basically non-existant as well, but it's still there somewhere very low in the mix. The vocals are raspy and angry sounding. Not that you'll be able to discern a word of what they're saying, Russian, English or otherwise. It's just an added effect to accompany the aggressive music style.

Effective yes, but after 49 minutes, very deadening and pretty taxing unless you're a fan of the really low-fi style. It's definitely an interesting release and will likely strike up a few fans here and there, so for rarities sake alone, if you find it, buy it for curiousities sake. It's not the best album/song in the world, but I've certainally come across worse in this genre.

SORE THROAT Inde$troy

Album · 1989 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
A true anomaly in the Sore Throat discography, a sludge metal epic that, despite the track listing provided above is one 41 minute track. In fact, this album was so at odds with anything else the band had done, which ranged from crust punk to grindcore, that they changed their name from Sore Throat to Saw Throat just for this album. The music on this record varies from sludge, industrial noise, has one section almost all as an entended drum solo - so there's no shortage of variation.

Ideally, the album can be seperated into about eight distinctly joined parts, each with its own style and genre experimentation. The intro and outro for my sake are the high points; this album though released in 1989 feels like a forerunner for many of the sludge/doom classics such as say (though it may be a stretch), Corrupted's style of music, or maybe I'm just getting that vibe from the vocals.

The album opens with an extended atmospheric segment - kicking in soon after a short spoken word piece begins, mulling the 'current' state of the world. This is a very environmentally conscious album, extending from the punkish attitudes that Sore Throat had put forward in their previous albums and pushing their talents into a very unexpected direction. The intro segment runs about 11 minutes, taking five minutes to mull around with industrial ambience, a repetitive keyboard melody (I think), as well as slowly, a screechy feedback that begins to pulse underneath it. Around 5 minutes in, a drum kicks twice, and the feedbacky, noisy dirge begins, not as slow as most sludge around nowadays, but for its time I can imagine it being quite a shock to most people. This was an album ahead of its time, and so to me, if you haven't guessed is a real metal classic. The dirge that is the first 11 minutes is complemented by the deep, raspy vocals that come to the fore around 7 minutes in, bellows which seem to mix death metal and hardcore stylings - highly effectively.

The dirge ends on a sustained mess of feedback which fades to almost silence, before the second section begins. This kicks up the speed a notch, but nowhere near where their work had been before, still drenched in the industrial atmosphere which is also communicated excellently across the albums length. The album lyrics focus on the aspects of society that are crumbling due to perpetually worsening environmental conditions. It's hard for me to summarise each segment in depth because there's a lot to take out of each of them - but here's my rundown of the album structure:

1. A slow building industrial/sludge dirge. 2. A duet between a gagging/screaming vocalist and the gravel voiced man we met earlier. 3. A more sparse and sludgy segment with angrier feedback influence and vocals that dance between singing and spoken word. Direct and powerful. 4. A more frenetic section, with a driving drum and guitar pattern that's most reminiscent of punk influence, but still very much metal oriented. 5. beginning with another spoken word segment, it drives back into a more sludgy piece, the atmosphere of dirtiness comes across heavily with the guitar and bass here. 6. An extended drum piece which actually works quite well, despite what you may think of drum solos. Daring move to put into a sludge album, but here it pays off. The vocals here are a bit strange. 7. Another sludgy piece, probably the weakest part, but still very strong material. 8. Another spoken word section begins this final part, which leads into a dynamic and perhaps the best piece in the album, a catchy drum pattern with bursts of guitar and bass lurching in and out. The lyrics here are very pointed against capitalism. This inital part goes for about 5 minutes before it evolves back to the feedbacky intro, with feedback obscuring the last few minutes, as we have a brief reprise of the opening tune, albeit darker and more focused.

Overall, wow. I've heard this album many times now, and it improves more upon each listen. Though the more crust punk elements may turn off sludge metal fans, as well as the highly dynamic nature of the music in visiting many styles across its 41 minute runtime, I highly recommend it to anyone with an open ear and mind. This is the environmentally concerned album that earth lovers needed blasting to incite some real social change.

ASVA Live In London, September 8, 2005

Live album · 2008 · Drone Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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renkls
Now, I present a review of the rarest album (thus far) in my collection, released in 2008 in a scant 120 copy self released pressing. Asva's only offical live album release is one 51 minute track of doom metal in their distinct style. The track is Untitled and it is purely instrumental doom metal. this will be a bit more comprehensive then usual, because this is a very obscure and hard to find album that people should know what they're getting.

Beginning with a sustained, slow building drone, then slowly adding new elements to the mixture, such as a downtuned guitar, and what sounds like keyboards, the album begins to show some life at the six minute mark, as heavy doom metal pounding riffs begin to take hold, leaving the drone far behind. The 'song' builds slowly, trudging along on its way to the ten minute mark, growing more dynamic with splashes of cymbal working their way in here and there.

Some feedbacky drone re-enters as the ten minute mark arrives, bubbling away on one sustained note once again... then back to the pounding riffs we go. They're still building up, heavy thudding drums lead the way forward. The (keyboards) begin to add some character to the riffs, slowly becoming more prominent. It's still building at 15 minutes, feedback finds its way into the mix with the doom riffs now. It's still not fully shown its teeth.

Drone is back at 17 minutes...

At 19 minutes a guitar line immersed in the drone signals a new movement. The drone remains as the riffs pick up some added feedback laced heaviness. Here's the heavy stuff now. Whilst still repetitive, it's growing in intensity still. this feels surprisingly upbeat for a doom metal piece, which isn't a bad thing - as it's got some original textures to the performance.

The drone guides the riffs forwards towards the 23 minute mark. It's growing still (a slow mover for sure, but hey, this is doom metal). The drums set an individual pattern at 24 minutes. We must be getting close now...oh, it's disappeared again. Nearly half way in. Ah, the drums emerge, clinging out like the meat of the song is about to begin. 27 minutes in. The drone proceeds... feedback whirls around untamed by the monotonous drone. 28 minutes... DROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE continues. Another bubble of bass pops in for a moment. There's something coming. 30 minutes now. A riff? Or a single chord? No, somethings happening. It's building again...drum splashes...drone continues...another chord at 31 minutes...slowly getting closer together. False alarm maybe? The drone is still there. 32 minutes. Whirring sustained chord in the mix. More drum chimes. Are we there yet? 33. Now, it hits. The riffs kick in, and the drone steps back. The drone at the back sounds like an organ. It may be, I'm not sure. It's still repetitive in the doomy progression, but it's going somewhere now. 35, the riffs continue on. Onto the 36th minute and a less aggressive guitar starts strumming along, accompanied by the intrusive beat of the now comparatively heavy drums. Under fifteen minutes to go now. The organ-like ambient makes a good counterpoint to this section. 37 minutes and the doomy riffs are back in, albeit more scattered and less monotonous. It's hitting a high point now. It's whirring up, getting heavier. They're still growing, bang, bang with the drums, riff, riff with the guitar, more whirring about. It's growing unpredictable, more dynamic. 40 minutes now. It's fast for most doom, but now it's back to that guitar strumming with scattered drums. These seem to hold more purpose this time around. The organ-like ambient continues to mull beneath it. dun, dun, dun, crash, dun, dun, dun. 42 minutes. Back with the whirring guitars and drums. Under ten minutes left. It's still going as we're at 44 minutes. Feedback and drone intermingle beneath the riffs as it goes on...seems like it'll be now or never for it to make itself be heard. 45 minutes. A sustained drone...the drums splash about for a few moments...tinker, tinker, whirring feedback starts to form. The buzz of drone takes the front. It's getting noisy. I think I hear the mumbles of vocals in the mix. This is getting loud and screechy. The hum of drone, the jitters of feedback, a whirring guitar chord spins around, as the noise gathers momentum. 47 minutes, the drone is still building. drums seem to have disappeared now as the buzzy drone wails on. It whirs around inside your head for a while, content to languish in your mind. 49 minutes now and the drone continues, creaking and groaning, a high note can be made out among the heavy drone. Feedback crackles in and out, the drone wobbles and sounds like the rotors of a helicopter taking off for a moment. Drums reenter, tinkering again. 50 minutes. The drone keeps going along...the drums tinker some more...the feedback picks up again with the drone and crackles too. less then a minute left and the drone continues to build with the feedback. Sparking, crumbly noise. Screechy as the world of the album begins to end. Then silence. You can hear the applause and cheers of the audience as the band finishes.

Overall, what can I say, it was alright. Nowhere near as satisfying in build and release as say, Boris did with their debut Absolutego, but in a live setting, I'd imagine this would have been an intense experience. I gather that from the low print run this was probably only sold properly at shows, but if you're a fan of Asva, I'm sure you'd enjoy this album. For me, it was alright, nothing too spectacular or innovative in drone doom metal, but nothing so bad it warrants anything less then a 3.5.

As the rarest item in my CD collection thus far, I could have done a lot worse. If you happen across a copy, pick it up, it's a little drone doom piece worth having.

ENCIRCLING SEA I

Album · 2009 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
I've just revisited this free album today twice, and I think it's rubbed off on me in a far more positive way this time around. Initally I gave it two and a half stars, but I've added a star upon this second and third listen.

Obviously with a single track of atmospheric black metal running 48 minutes, you need a lot of patience with this. In many ways the black metal parts are not fully realised in this debut, but it's in the cohesive, flowing minimalism that leads the album down this meandering path that really works well in its favour.

Perhaps it's this calm nature through the mid section of the album that really gives off a pleasing vibe for me now. I wasn't patient enough on the first few listens, but now I think this album has grown on me. So I say, check it out, not really so much for the black metal parts, but more the overall feeling of the album. It's quite nice.

Oh, and it's free to download, so there's no excuse for you to not do so.

CEPHALECTOMY The Dream Cycle Mythos

Album · 2008 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Hey cool, I finally found a style of metal that I don't really enjoy. Well, that's still a bit harsh, but somehow the guttural vocals of this musical style really don't make me light up in joy. Cephalectomy play a mix of grindcore with death metal, with strange results over a single 23 minute track. While you may cringe at the idea of a 23 minute onslaught of grindcore meshed with death metal, a preliminary listen reveals this is not the case. There are also ambient interludes, as well as a few doom inspired passages throughout this album, which ironically are probably my favorite parts. While the drums on the album are played with a speedy drum machine, they don't intrude on the album too much, for me anyway. The vocals and the fact they don't make an inch of sense to me is probably the main downside for my sake. Instrumentally it's quite well made, always heading off in a different direction - which does give the impression this is simply a lot of smaller songs fused into one semi-cohesive whole, but overall, the segues are not so blatant as to make it seem like this. Overall, not my cup of tea, mainly due to vocal performance and the sometimes tedious nature of the music despite it's uncompromising design and genre. But I'm sure it has plenty of fans out there.

CORRUPTED Paso Inferior

Album · 1997 · Drone Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 6 ratings
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renkls
Corrupted were a simple band once upon a time, albeit still incredibly good at what they did. Their debut full length album, Paso Inferior, is one 41 minute long dirge of a track, one of, if not the heaviest sludge metal albums I've heard in my time.

What makes this album both their purest sludge album and their most inaccessible? Aside from the one track, it's also basically one riff, flayed to bits, akin to a feedback laced drone injection, whirring razorblades and baseball bats around inside your eardrums. A sandwich of screechy, livid hate. A cacophony of pitch black doom.

It's an intense listen, and that's the impression I got before I heard the vocals. Man, Corrupted has a great vocalist. You know, it's strange to hear death metal tinged vocals in sludge, but also great. A japanese band that sings in Spanish? Well, that's Corrupted for you. Sure, I don't know what the band is really singing about, Spanish is not my forte, but judging by the musical accompaniment, I doubt it's anything too upbeat.

There's no real climax to the piece, but then there's no real structure, aside from a three minute feedback intro that leads straight into the dirge, then a similar outro. One long journey of darkness.

Doom/sludge music is rarely this uncompromising, and in creating an atmosphere and sticking it out to the bitter end is noteworthy. Is it a good listen however? Depends how much doom/sludge you can handle. If you're not an avid uber-heavy music buff, listening to this could be a form of torture. I'm listening to it now, and if you're not initiated, it can turn into background music, despite how aversive it is.

In conclusion, if you seek nihilistic and near deafening sludge - and you love Corrupted's later work, come see where they began, with this dirge journey into hell. You may well love it.

HIGHGATE Highgate

Album · 2008 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
If the prerequisites of funeral doom were limited to the effectiveness of creating a sonic dirge, then Highgate's debut would be a considerably praised release. One 54 minute track of slow, atmospheric funeral doom with some black metal influence evident mostly in the vocal style.

What makes this album/song fall short of greatness is that ever common problem with many doom releases - a tendency to do nothing unique and innovative. The album has about eight seperate parts that are segued into one by electronic noise/feedback, and as a whole this works rather well, whether it can be considered as a whole or fragmented collection of songs scrambled into one isn't too much of an issue for me. Of course, others would look at a 54 minute doom song and walk away, and true, this is bleak and typically depressing stuff.

The vocals reflect a sense of despair and desperation, sometimes rough, sometimes ecstatic in screams. The instruments accompany the vocals quite well generally, though as noted already, there's no real standout moments in this album. Now and then is an engaging sequence, but often it is short lived before diving back into the repetitive nature doom can be known for.

Overall, if you're a fan of long, cathartic exercises in doom metal, and don't mind unhinged lyricists and a bit of repetition, this release may well be for you.

As for me, I'm split between a 3 and a 3.5 on this one, I may change the rating later on.

PENSÉES NOCTURNES Ceci est de la Musique

Album · 2011 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 1.75 | 2 ratings
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renkls
I don't think I should rate this album, because in reality, it's not an album at all, because it doesn't exist. Reviewing this album is basically an admission that I downloaded it in order to review it, and I have read enough about the hubbub this album stirred among this bands fanbase to know that the creator of this was making a statement about piracy or something of the sort.

What can I say about the music itself? It's a digital file on the internet easily findable if you download music regularly, and all it is, is a remix of the previous album they made, Grotesque, into a single track effort of 55 minutes. That's why I downloaded the album obviously, I have a thing about these huge tracks.

The music is predominently black metal but also mixes in classical influences, which gives it an original and quite fascinating edge, but that this isn't really an offical release, and just a joke, stick with the Grotesque album for the same, if not a far better effect.

Seeing as it's just a remix, and not for the sake of being reviewed without exposing oneself as someone who downloads music through shady sources, it's just a frustrating listen really. I can't really say if it's good or not, it's just like many remixes, rather pointless.

I doubt the real album will see the light of day anytime soon. If you are interested in the backstory and confusion about this album, do investigate it, it's quite fascinating.

I'll rate it half a star, because I must rate this album.

.CRRUST Pain is a Mere Sensation

Album · 2007 · Mathcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
Lost in Translation: The music edition.

"Irresistible to some Annoying to others Driven by the winds Caught inside the fins Relying on weather To smooth out the leather On you

Only to soak and freeze the triggered hands like frozen brush ends dipped in red paint dripping down as they thaw forming figures out of splashes turning back to shatters of dried blood

Irresistible to some Annoying to others Driven by the winds Caught inside the fins Relying on weather To rip out your studs"

I'm not well versed in mathcore, so to an outside observer, I'd describe the style as aggressive technical prog rock with an emphasis on complexity and angry expression. At least, that's what rubbed off on me from this album.

This is a single track composition released in 2007 from .crrust, a russian band that disbanded shortly after its release. You could say they considered it their magnum opus, or at least their grand statement.

As you may have noticed, I begun my review with a segment of the lyrics from the 44 minute track, and yes, these are the real lyrics. Rather then singing in their native language, they transitioned to english lyrics for this album, and to detrimental effect in my opinion. Read them in their entirity online and you get the sense of broken and quite inept poetry, devoid of the nuances that are probably present in Russian, and which the band presumed would come across language barriers. In this album, the lyrics absolutely ruin the feeling, though I'll admit, sometimes they perfectly match the mood of the piece, which is ever changing.

This album structure reminds me of Scald's Vermiculatus, which is another one track album, that uses its first half as performance and the second as atmospheric and more for introspective effect. as such, this album is dominantly mathcore for the first half, before evolving slowly into a kind of noisy jam session, then to an industrial piece with ambient influence. The second half is almost all instrumental as well, so the misguided lyrics only take up the first half.

I'm not sure which part I enjoy more, as each has merits and disadvantages. The first half suffers through the lyrics, the second in that it borders on almost annoying minimalism, being frustrating for an uninitiated metal fan to say the least. There's no climax so to speak, except to close the first half, so the second half feels lacking/directionless a lot of the time. It's not bad, but it's not fantastic. I think that's what can be said here.

The first half has plenty of radical influences thrown into the mix, hence my perception of it as a progressive rock inspired piece. It's not flat out intense mathcore without a break, it has calmer parts where the lyrics fit perfectly, and it resembles some form of post-rocky melody. There's some jazzy interludes as well.

Overall, this is an interesting album, brought down in rating because of its lyrical mishaps, as well as a daunting 20 minute coda (second half) which can be draining. Worth checking out at least once though.

FLEGETHON Cry of the Ice Wolves II

Album · 2006 · Doom Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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renkls
I was lucky enough to pick up one of the 100 copies of this album out there, and I suppose for rarity alone I considered it worth having. That and it's a one track album, like 90% of my musical consumption and collection.

This particular album track is pretty boring to be honest. It's a mostly ambient album with some (or, a lot) of black metal fuzz that gives off a low quality vibe, and later on, some funeral doom influence with raspy vocals. The ambient is, perhaps unsurprisingly where the album is actually the best, but then it's pretty hard to botch ambiance.

There is a fifteen minute buildup to the black metal/funeral doom parts, and the wait is pretty excruciating, as fifteen minutes of fuzzy ambient is a bit much of a wait, especially when it doesn't grab your attention and hold it for that long.

Nonetheless, given just how obscure this album is, I doubt it will find many listeners, so this review is sort of a moot point. I'll just say it's decent, but hardly stands up to repeat listens.

HYPOTHERMIA Skogens Hjärta

Album · 2010 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
There is an adage, 'less is more' which sums up the experience I had with this album extremely well. Hypothermia released this album for free back in 2010, and what a treat it was, albeit one that took me quite a few listens to fully appreciate - and even then, only under the right circumstances. Coming of several minimalist black metal albums, Skogens Hjärta was a surprise, as a full post rock piece, an undivided 68 minute suite.

Rather then throwing us into a pit of misery and misanthropy through the black metal aggression that catagorised much of their previous work, Skogens Hjärta uses the melodic and depressive nature of the lone guitar and drums to extract a far more affecting result. You know, like an emotional response. There is a simple, almost magnetic beauty to this album/song, and it reaches into it many times throughout.

That said, it's not perfect by any stretch, as the melodic moments are not always the centerpiece of the suite, varying between long stretches of building guitar and drumwork, then quieting down again, then repeating the process again and again. It could have been 50 minutes and not missed out much. I'm not complaining though, the meandering and melancholy nature of this album works for it in spades.

It never overstays its welcome, though that's purely my opinion. For others who are less patient and expect an album in the same vein as Hypothermia's previous work, look elsewhere. This is completely instrumental.

I recommend this album for sitting in solitude and writing your own stories and novels. It works wonders.

CARDINALE 31:13

Album · 2006 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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renkls
Cardinale are/were (due to a sustained period of silence) an American sludge band that formed from the ashes of Sea of Thousand, interestingly enough on only one album. As well as being only one album, and a short one at that, Cardinale's 31:13 is also only one song, that runs (surprise, surprise) 31:13.

Put aside the novelty of that, and it actually works surprisingly well as a piece. Unlike most sludge metal, this actually embraces a sense of progression, not sticking around on the same endlessly repeated parts. Its slightness comes from being not greatly memorable despite the progressive nature of the piece, as well as having a hardly original lyrical journey.

While it's hardly bad, you may find it's not the best work ever - and likely, it won't be a piece you replay often. This is still decent sludge however, and I can't fully discredit it. 3/5 seems about right, it's good, but not essential stuff.

THE REPTILIANS The Mentalist

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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The over-saturation of visual and aural art that can be found on the internet means that most generous offerings by up and coming bands get lost in obscurity - seldom unheard by any but avid followers of the band. The Mentalist is another one of those free albums that gets sadly overlooked on the vast space that is the internet.

The first offical release of The Reptilians, The Mentalist is a 27 minute album (ep?) that contains only the title track. The music is a little difficult to describe, but it settles between hard rock, black metal and predominantly progressive metal. The opening of the song/album is something that gets everything right for me - kicking off with a slow building rhythm that runs for the first five minutes. It is brooding and dark in tone. It is accompanied by the musings of an atheistic man who muses on the contradictions of the bible in a mocking, quite darkly humorous and cynical tone. The way this beginning has been put together is very effective as an intro.

Next, we move onto the central theme of the piece, which brings us to the eight minute mark, where errie vocals begin to form. One slight issue here is that the music definitely takes the precedence over the vocals, both in execution and in volume. It's quite difficult to pick out what is being said at points. Probably best to check the included lyric book for more information on that.

The story is very much in an existential rut, at least how I see it, as the album starts to build up pace, despite sticking to the catchy base rhythm for the most part. it is never boring, and there is always something to keep you engaged.

The song picks up pace as we get to the 12 minute mark, and the vocals turn aggressive and raspy, under the growing force of the music. There's not too much that jumps out at you along the way, but the song never seems to drag, and this 27 minute journey seems rather short. The lyric that jumps out for me is "the world is going insane".

At the 16th minute mark, there is a guitar solo, then back into the groove we go. Moving to the 20 minute mark, it hits a sustained climax so to speak, where a thrash element jumps out with more heavy riffing. This comes to a head around the 24th minute, where an interesting effect comes back in, an extract of the atheist piece which kicks off the album, looping the word 'seatbelt' on to silence... I thought it was over, but at the 27th minute there is a brief strange jumble of noise that effectively closes the album.

In summary? A strange journey with lots of character and a dash of humor thrown in, that does have its flaws, but seeing as it's a free album as well as the bands debut, you can't hold too much against them. I expect they will improve their style and perhaps the mixing of vocals on their next release, whenever that may be.

3.5, rounded to 4 seeing as it's free. http://thereptilians.bandcamp.com/album/the-mentalist

MASSEMORD The Madness Tongue Devouring Juices of Livid Hope

Album · 2010 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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renkls
A rather slight album, if you consider it an album and not a single 35 minute track - but for the single track it is, it's quite catchy, albeit rather repetitive because of it.

The title track (which is a rather amusing title too) uses one underlying rhythm to drive the whole album, then adds various elements to the piece as it progresses. I hear piano, melodic elements and some feedback experimentation weave in and out. The lyrics, though somewhat sparse, are actually a highlight point for me. Despite being firmly in black metal territory, I had no issue discerning the words at all, as they seemed to tread the line between singing and spoken word.

While at its core, pretty aesthetically simple, it's still not a bad album in itself, just gives the feeling of being overly slight for a full length release. At 35 minutes, the length doesn't feel overlong at least. As an album/song, you could do a lot worse though.

YSENGRIN To Endotation

Album · 2012 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Though there's been a few albums in the vein of Edge of Sanity's Crimson emerge in the last few years, none have really overthrown its fundamental influence in the death metal scene - but that doesn't stop several talented bands from trying.

Ysengrin is a rather obscure french band, and I must say that their album To Endotation is my first experience with them. Like Crimson, To Endotation takes form in one unbroken track of 40 minutes. It uses a style that sits in the middle of both death metal and black metal - but instrumentally incorporates several different styles, from acoustic sections to hard rock riffs, then the heavier doomy parts.

While the album is one unbroken track, there are at least two parts where fades are really obvious, and the flow is sort of broken, but these are just minor niggles which come with the ambitious layout of the album.

Lyrically, the vocalist has a strange blend of death/black metal vocalizations, being able to go from raspy one moment to clear and authoritative the next. They're definitely vocals to get used to, as they're not like most that I've heard.

The album is in french, so you may need some translation to understand the story they're telling.

Overall, there are plenty of catchy moments in the album length song that make it recommended enough for four stars, but it still doesn't have the edge on many of the notable one track classics. I look forward to seeing where the band takes their unique style next.

MISTIGO VARGGOTH DARKESTRA The Key to the Gates of Apocalypse

Album · 1999 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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Few albums are ambitious to the point of ridiculousness quite like Mistigo Varggoth Darkestra's final album, The Key to the Gates of Apocalypse.

A 72 minute song that speaks of sacrifice, time portals and new dimensions sounds outrageous, but in some parts of black metal, that's to be expected. Well, maybe not the 72 minute part. So how does this album pull it off?

Well, it's kind of deceptive to consider as one complete piece at points due to some noticeable fades between sections, and the movements between black metal thrash and dark ambiance sprinkled with some mild noise influence and sampling.

The parts that work best for me are actually the keyboards used on the album which kind of give it a mystical effect, and power to the heavier parts on which it is used. Sections like at the 58th minute work especially well with this aspect in hand.

Other parts are not as inspired, such as the concluding passage with lyrics, which is of a noticeably lower quality then the previous lyric sections. Intentional or not, I sort of wish it was better produced. Black metal has sounded a lot better then it does here, but for the most part (with the previous instance excluded), it is acceptable.

As an ambitious final statement to make in music, it does have its pitfalls - but at the same time, it's also got quite a few highlight moments, and seldom feels (too) overlong. For a 72 minute song, you've got to give credit where it's due.

CORRUPTED El Mundo Frío

Album · 2005 · Drone Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 8 ratings
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renkls
It's really hard for me to figure out exactly what the appeal of this album is, or for me to even understand why I, and so many other people like it so much.

This is the fourth full length album by Corrupted, and is arguably their most fully realised and varied. That said, what we are dealing with here is a single track giant, 71:40 of sludge/post metal. At least, that's what the genre tags it as.

You wouldn't think so by the ten minute mark, at which point you have heard some dark ambient, mixed in with minimalist classical harp and drums. Suddenly, just as you're dosing, the sludge hits at 10:40, and you're hooked into the meaty part of the track, a long, minimalist sludge intro, which takes us into the 20th minute, at which point there are still no vocals in sight. The drums and guitar settle into a groove here, and we're finally given the first vocals at 23 minutes.

This is pretty restrained stuff for the sludge giants renowned for their uncompromising sludge power, in Paso Inferior for instance - but as the vocals work up the rest of the band to build - we see this is a premeditated piece; it makes us work hard for the payoff. At 27 minutes, that payoff comes, as the vocals roar forth, and the instruments wrap themselves around them, pummeling forward to the thirty minute mark.

While this is a high point in the song, we're not even halfway done. Soon after this early peak, the song returns to the minimalist post-rock style from whence it began, grooving along slowly, weaving in the beautiful strums of the harp along the way. It's this middle section which confuses me as to how it keeps me hooked - as it's more then 15 minutes of minimalist post rock, with very subtle developments as it goes. Somehow, the epic walks a fine line between minimalism and boredom - and even here, for some reason I cannot explain, it works wonders.

At the 48 minute mark, the album picks up the pace again, which is a pretty broad statement, seeing as it's still a super slow development. We're back with the 20 minute mark groove, and soon the lyrics follow again. Here, the lyrics sound like a reprise of what came before, but investigating the lyric book, they tell a different tale the second time around. I'll let you read up on that for yourself.

At the 55 minute mark, we are back with the thunderous vocal roars and heavy riffs oncemore, and this leads us on and on, until we're just under the hour mark, and the vocals let out their last and fade away.

Then, to close the album, like a book cover; a ten minute outro to match the 10 minute intro. And like a good book, it's also very satisfying.

I can't really explain the appeal of this album, but it works on its own terms, and is quite the experience if you ever find 72 minutes to sit down and listen to the whole thing. It's not like a typical sludge piece, as you can see, but there's enough here to pull in fans of minimalism, ambiance, metal and post rock alike.

A great album, but only if you're the patient kind.

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